Monday, August 22, 2016

Oktoberfest!

St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Kewanee, Illinois will be hosting the Twenty-first Annual Oktoberfest! and Gottesdienst Central from Sunday afternoon, October 9th, until Tuesday, October 11th.

The event begins Sunday October 9th with Vespers at 5 p.m. Following the service is our annual bratwurst banquet. When everyone has had their fill of brats and beer, featured guest Rev. Dr. Benjamin Mayes, Assistant Professor of Historical Theology at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana will give a synopsis of his Monday seminar.

Following the banquet is the after-the-party party, at the home of Rev. Dr. Burnell Eckardt, the pastor at  St. Paul's.

On Monday, October 10th, Divine Service is at 9:00 a.m., with Rev. Michael Frese from Redeemer in Fort Wayne, Indiana, as special guest preacher. Following the service and a continental breakfast, Dr. Mayes will hold forth for the rest of the day, in two sessions running until about 2:45, followed by Vespers. 

Dr. Mayes will be speaking on 

“The Call and the Ministry according to Johann Gerhard.” 

Johann Gerhard has been called the “Arch-theologian of Lutheranism,” and was the most influential of seventeenth-century Lutheran theologians. He decisively influenced Protestant theologians to study the evangelical (i.e., Gospel-centered) character of pre-Reformation Christianity. Gerhard has been an area of particular interest for Dr. Mayes, who served until this fall as an editor of professional and academic books at Concordia Publishing House (CPH) in St. Louis. In particular he served as general editor for Gerhard’s Theological Commonplaces. Dr. Mayes still serves CPH as managing editor and co-general editor of Luther’s Works: American Edition.

On Tuesday, the conference will continue in the same format, with discussion of liturgical and theological ramifications of decisions made at this summer’s triannual convention of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, with Pastor Eckardt.

REGISTRATION: $50 per person, $70 per couple, students $25 — includes Sunday banquet and Monday continental; no charge for children with parents.  Send your name, address, and which days you plan to attend to b.f.eckardt@gmail.com, or call 309-852-2461. You may pay the registration fee when you arrive.


Recommended Lodging: 

AmericInn, 309-856-7200. Special rate $94.00 (mention Oktoberfest when you register, by September 12th); also Aunt Daisy’s B & B, 309-853-3300; Motel 6, 309-853-8800; Super 8 (Galva), 309-932-2841; Best Western (Annawan), 800-637-5958; Kewanee Motor Lodge, 309-853-4000.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

St Paul's on the Air - on the return of Christ

Here's a link to St. Paul's on the air, and a discussion of 2 Peter 3:1-9, which deals with the return of Christ in glory.

Monday, August 15, 2016

The healing of the deaf mute (St. Mark 7:31-27, the Gospel for Trinity XII) shows us how intimately Christ has compassion on his people. Not only is it for our sake that he deals with us incarnationally, Sacramentally (that is, he touches the deaf mute, and he touches us in the Sacrament); it is also for his own sake. He wants to be this close to us. So do not despise his desire for you: attend to your baptismal prayers and the Holy Supper frequently. Sermon for Trinity XII

Uncompromising Genuflexion

by Burnell F. Eckardt Jr.

This is an article that was written and printed in the Michaelmas 2002 issue of Gottesdienstin my Liturgical Observer column. It seemed an appropriate piece to republish, in view of the kerfuffle that has arisen in LCMS circles since this summer's convention that featured genuflecting clergymen at the Divine Service.

Now they even have lobbies, gyms, boutiques, banks, and McDonald’s restaurants on their premises.  The megachurches have certainly not gone away; they have merely become more mega.  The rationale for making the churches into marketplaces is generally the idea that the gathering of people to exchange greetings over coffee is to be considered a “meaningful” part of Christian worship.  Maybe the Golden Arches haven’t yet become Golden Steeples, but they certainly aren’t very far away from the chancel.
Since this is so, it behooves us who know better about what is the truly meaningful part of Christian worship to make our confession all the more bold.  As we believe and teach, so must we confess.  Since Christian worship must be the worship of Christ, and since Christ’s sacramental presence is at the heart of Christian worship, what is called for here is a re-evaluation of our liturgical ways of confessing the faith, as we seek continually to be faithful.
What appears to be at issue in the worship wars waging across America these days is how, or whether at all, we may liturgically insist upon the Gospel.  There is considerable pressure being placed upon churches and pastors to declare that it is improper to insist upon anything liturgical at all, saying, rather, that the freedom of the Gospel means that we can worship any way we see fit, so long as the words expressed in worship are consistent with the Gospel.  The battleground finds the proponents of liturgical leniency contending for a separation between form and substance, while the defenders of orthodox liturgical practice maintain the old maxim lex orandi, lex credendi (literally, the rule of prayer is the rule of believing): the rubrics governing the conduct of our worship have direct bearing upon the essence of our faith.  More simply put, we contend that the way one conducts himself at prayer is tied to the focus and heart of his prayer.
Liturgical worship recognizes that the posture and behavior of the participants is a reflection of what they profess.  To cite the extreme case, if someone enters the church with a pink spike hairdo, rings of one kind or another piercing his body in various places, a swagger in his gait, a smirk on his face, and perhaps a chortle at every reference to Jesus that he hears, it becomes apparent that he does not really wish to be present, or associated with the Christian Church.  Therefore, on the contrary we find it fitting to dress properly for church, to carry ourselves with decency, to make the sign of the cross, to fold the hands, to stand erect, to bow the head, or—notwithstanding its increasing unpopularity—to bend the knee.
Which brings me to the topic of this essay.
Of the fact that genuflexion is biblical and apostolic there can be no doubt.  Daniel “knelt down three times a day” to pray (Daniel 6:10), Solomon knelt in the presence of all Israel at the dedication of his temple (1 Kings 8:54), and Esdras knelt in prayer (1 Esdras 9:5).  The Wise Men knelt before the Christ (St. Matthew 2:11), a leper knelt to beseech His mercy (St. Mark 1:40), Stephen knelt (Acts 7:59), St. Peter knelt (Acts 9:40), St. Paul knelt (Acts 20:36) and maintained the significance of genuflexion (e.g., Ephesians 3:14; Philippians 2:10), and most importantly, Christ Himself in Gethsemane knelt down to pray (St. Luke 22:41).  Tradition relates that St. James’s knees, from his continual kneeling, had become callous as those of a camel (Eusebius 2,23: 76).  Genuflexion is certainly a matter of form, and it ought to be self-evident that it is directly related to substance.  Although we ought never consider a failure to genuflect in itself a statement against what it professes—for that would be judgmental—we always recognize that genuflexion is itself a statement of faith.  It is unmistakably a way of adoring Christ.  In the worship setting, it is also unmistakably a way of adoring Him in the Sacrament.
We must learn to do liturgically what we say theologically.  Most especially lex orandi, lex credendi is true in a sacramental sense, and this leads me to offer this particular application.  In view of the liturgical malaise we face, and especially the evidence of manifest disregard and disdain for the Holy Sacrament, a liturgical response is in order.  It’s high time that we who call ourselves confessional all got used to genuflecting before the Sacrament every Sunday.  For this more than any other liturgical action demonstrates the object of our worship and allegiance.
This assumes that we offer the Sacrament every Sunday.  The rise of the megachurch makes it all the more imperative that we set before our people what we know to be the heart of Christian worship, namely, Christ on the altar.  And this is no more legalism than to insist upon Christ.  To offer the Sacrament every Sunday to those who desire it is to offer them Christ.  It is simply a matter of faith: lex orandi, lex credendi.  The Christian, according to the Catechism, should be admonished and encouraged to receive the Sacrament frequently by “both the command and the promise of Christ the Lord” and by “his own pressing need, because of which the command, encouragement, and promise are given” (Section 4: “Christian Questions with Their Answers,” Luther’s Small Catechism 43).  Should not the churches therefore be offering the Sacrament for frequent reception?  How can one receive it frequently if it be not offered frequently?  If we are teaching and confessing the importance of frequent reception, yet persistently adhere to the Rationalist/Pietist innovations of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries which allowed some Sundays to pass without even offering the Sacrament, then there is a clear contradiction between what we say and what we do.  We really have no right to call ourselves “confessional Lutherans” if we do not seek to correct this blatant deviation from the sacramental and, until well into the sixteenth century, universal practice of the Christian Church.
And given the current sacramental crisis, genuflexion before the Sacrament is becoming more difficult to see as an entirely indifferent matter.  This is not to say that it ought to become a law for Christians; this is not and should not be a matter of forced submission.  Though Christ’s Body and Blood are truly present here, we make no laws out of the Gospel, though we are commonly charged with doing just that. I find, rather, that because genuflexion is an adoration of Christ in the Sacrament, I can scarcely do otherwise than to bend the knee.  If I find myself recognizing that the impetus for genuflecting is a strong one, it is not because I feel constrained to follow some law, but rather because I desire to confess my faith boldly.
And our wanting to do so is not only because of the megachurch phenomenon, but in view of another consideration pertaining to our own liturgical milieu.  Even among those who like to think of themselves as more traditional and confessional in worship preferences, there is still—there has been for a long time—a critical bone of contention over the issue of receptionism.  The receptionist position holds that the words of Christ apply only to those parts of the elements which are actually received. The receptionist view is that whatever is not consumed is mere bread and wine, since it is not included in the entire sacramental action.  The Formula of Concord’s Article VII (“The Holy Supper”) declares that
if the institution of Christ be not observed as He appointed it, there is no sacrament . . . And the use or action here does not mean chiefly faith, neither the oral participation only, but the entire external, visible action of the Lord’s Supper instituted by Christ, the consecration, or words of institution, the distribution and reception, or oral partaking of the consecrated bread and wine, of the body and blood of Christ.  And apart from this use, when in the papistic mass the bread is not distributed, but offered up or enclosed, borne about, and exhibited for adoration, it is to be regarded as no sacrament (SD VII: 83-87, Trigl. 1001f. ).
What the Formula means to reject is the abuse of the Sacrament, where the Host is enclosed in a monstrance for adoration only and is never eaten.  But the receptionists have taken this to mean that only that portion of the elements actually used in the Distribution are truly Christ’s Body and Blood.  They have taken this usus statement from the Formula of Concord to mean that the Body and Blood of Christ cease to be present in every instance where the Sacrament is not being eaten and drunk, and have forgotten the logic of abusus non tollit usum—let not the abuse determine what ought to be done—and so have come to the conclusion that Christ’s true Body and Blood may or may not be present in this or that particular element.  No longer can the celebrant with complete conviction repeat the words of Christ, This is My Body, for now we must wonder, what is this? when is is operative? or what, for that matter, is truly meant by is?
No wonder they have grown sloppy at the altar, and unwitting bedfellows of the megachurch promoters, who, like them, give evidence that their true affections lie somewhere other than there.  No wonder they rush through the Words of Institution with such haste that we wonder what train they have to catch after the service.  No wonder they have no trouble with plastic individual Communion cups: it isn’t really Christ’s own very Blood in there; it only might be, and at that, only when consumed, or, come to think of it, only at the moment it is consumed!  For after consumption, by the same token, it is no longer in use either, since the use has ended; and therefore, it is no longer Christ’s Blood.  But now, alas, we must wonder when, if ever, the elements are truly Christ’s Body and Blood.  Not before, not after, only during!  But what is “during”?  At the moment it passes the vertical plane of the opened lips?  At the nanosecond it sits on the tongue before digestion begins?   Thus is becomes virtually never.  Meanwhile the megachurch promoters would retort, “Who cares? Let’s go to McDonald’s for some real fellowship.”
But we take Christ at His word. He simply says, This is My Body.  Now let us consider: lex orandi, lex credendi.  How are we to behave, in consequence of this truth, especially knowing there are those who deny it, or who don’t care about it?  They are saying that Christ’s Body does not, or may not, truly sit on the altar.  How can we be idle here?  The Scriptures declare, “I believed, therefore have I spoken” (Psalm 116:10).  What does our posture say?  What do our actions say?
Here is one confessional Lutheran who believes it is time for all who have not yet done so to take a serious look at genuflexion.  The bending of the knee is a clear and unambiguous gesture of adoration, such as we offer to Christ alone.  Yes, we believe that Christ is here, that He sits on the altar because of His own words, This is My Body, and that He is here worthy to be adored.  Lex orandi, lex credendi.
Certainly, apart from the use there is no Sacrament, which is why as Lutherans we reject the use of the monstrance, an ornate case intended only for the exhibition and adoration of a Sacred Host.  But we do not by this token deny that the Sacrament, as properly administered, is worthy of adoration.  It is the true Body and Blood of Christ!  Of course it is worthy of adoration, as nothing else on earth.  Moreover we affirm that the chief thing in the Sacrament, besides the bodily eating and drinking, are the words “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins” (“The Sacrament of the Altar,” Luther’s Small Catechism, 31).  But by genuflexion we affirm that what is “given and shed for you” is indeed the Body and Blood of Christ, by His own words.
Surely it is not wrong to adore Christ’s Body, which is Christ Himself.  His purpose is not to present His Body here for adoration but for oral reception, to be sure, but is it not proper to emphasize in our ceremony the truth that it is His Body that we are about to receive?  Do we not agree that His true Body is where He says it is?  These ceremonies are most appropriate settings for the mystery that is Christ among us, and for us.  “No one, unless he be an Arian heretic, can and will deny that Christ Himself, true God and man, who is truly and essentially present in the Supper, should be adored in spirit and in truth in the true use of the same, as also in all other places, especially where His congregation is assembled” (FC SD VII:126. Trigl. 1015).
Receptionism seeks to slice and divide which of the consecrated elements are His Body and Blood and which are not, or worse, to put off the moment of the change until the bread is received.  This amounts to a new reading of Christ’s words, as if He had said, “This will become My Body when you eat it, but is not yet at this moment of consecration My Body.”  But Christ said is, and He cannot lie.  Once is is denied, the Zwinglian position wins.  The receptionists put off the effect of is until later, whereas the Zwinglians put it off until never, a difference only in degree.  Even transubstantiation, the Thomist invention and philosophical construct which maintains a distinction between the substance (Christ’s Body and Blood, truly present) and the accidents (the taste, appearance, etc., of bread and wine, which they hold to be no longer substantially present), is nowhere near as bad as this.  Though both constructs are unacceptable, the rejection of Christ’s is is far worse than the impropriety of its philosophical analysis.  As Luther once put it, “Sooner than have mere wine with the fanatics, I would agree with the pope that there is only blood” (AE 37: 317).
In about the year 1200, a new view of the Sacrament became prevalent in the teaching of Peter Comestor and Peter the Chanter, who held that the bread was not consecrated in the Mass until the Words of Institution had been spoken over both bread and wine. As a matter of protest against this view, there arose the practice of elevating the Host before the consecration of the cup.  Those who confessed that the presence of Christ was effected by the words This is My Body supported their confession by at once adoring it, without waiting for the words to be spoken over the chalice.  At Paris, this elevation even became a matter of synodal precept (see www.newadvent.org/cathen/05380b.htm). Certain superstitions also began to arise in connection with this elevation, which nevertheless ought not detract from the fact that genuflexion was understood as a bold act of adoration, of refusing to concede the adversary’s contention.  This was uncompromising genuflexion. 
Similarly, in the days of the Reformation, there arose a telling liturgical difference between the Lutherans and the Reformed, reflective of their respective views of the Sacrament.  Since the Reformed held that it was a mere symbol, they were content to discontinue the practice of genuflecting.  Their strong emphasis on the sovereignty of God brought with it an iconoclasm and disdain for anything which might be considered idolatrous worship of “graven images.”  Hence genuflexion became particularly odious.  But the Lutherans parted company here, and insisted not only upon the real presence of Christ’s Body in, with, and under the sacramental Host, but also upon a rejection of any view of God which separated Him from the Incarnation. For the Lutherans at the altar, genuflexion became a means of affirming their faith in Christ’s real presence in the Sacrament, as well as a liturgical means of rejecting the errors of the Reformed.  The Reformed refused to kneel; the Lutherans consequently made clear their desire to bend the knee at the altar rail.  This too was uncompromising genuflexion.

It is this aspect of the genuflexion which is particularly appealing, and a comparison to our milieu can hardly be missed.  Both the receptionists and those who favor liturgical leniency find genuflexion odious, and generally for the very same reasons we find it proper.  They do not see, as we do, that Christ is on the altar for us to eat and drink, and that this is critical to our faith.  Friends, Lutherans, countrymen: Let us now respond to these errors in a simple, free, and unambiguous way.  Heedless of the megachurchgoers, the receptionists, the critics, the naysayers, and all torpedoes, let us likewise make our confession by serene, sincere, devout, and uncompromising genuflexion. 

Monday, August 8, 2016

What’s This? Genuflecting in Worship?


If you open up your Bible and pray the Psalms you might come across this line, “Oh come let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD our maker”  (Psalm 95:6).  Missouri Synod Lutherans are Bible believers and what the Bible says, they desire to put into practice.  Our Lord and God does not mandate that we bow down or kneel at any particular time or place in the service but as the Scriptures themselves commend bowing and kneeling as a salutary practice, Lutherans do it.  Many of our church buildings have kneelers in the pews and most have an altar rail so that communicants can kneel to receive the very Body and Blood of Jesus Christ under the bread and wine for the forgiveness of sins.  Kneeling is part and parcel of Lutheran worship and while this is confirmed in furniture, one might take a look at our current hymnal and agenda to see where there is instruction to kneel.  Lutherans may kneel to confess their sins (LSB 151,167,184, 203, 213, 291, 292), pray (LSB 227, 233, 241,249, 253) get confirmed (LSB 273) and get married (LSB 276).   If the Lutheran is to be a pastor, he kneels to be ordained (LSB Agenda p. 166),  installed (LSB Agenda, p. 181) and he may kneel if he is leaving for another field of service (LSB Agenda, 195), or retiring (LSB Agenda, p. 198).  If a son or daughter of a congregation is beginning study for service in the church they may kneel (LSB Agenda, p. 207).  If a Lutheran is a candidate for commissioning in service to the church, they are instructed to kneel (LSB Agenda, p. 212).  Dig through Lutheran Hymnals and Agendas past and present and you will find kneeling all over the place.  Genuflecting is kneeling, just with one knee.  It is this one-knee kneeling that has the Rev. Chris Wicher, President of the Eastern District of the LCMS, well, upset.  His full report of the recent Synod Convention is found here, but his comments on the worship practices of the Convention are of particular interest to us.  President Wicher writes,

“WHAT’S THIS? GENUFLECTING IN WORSHIP? Finally, a word about my worship experience at the convention. Worship was definitely of high church style, complete with liturgies “out of the book” and chanting throughout on top of full liturgical garb, chasubles and the like. This is my second convention which was run and organized by our current administration. The same style at this convention held true at our last convention, which is also true when I attend chapel at the International Center in St. Louis. The message to me is plain. High church is the preferred worship style given to the churches of the LC--MS. I get it, I can even do high church liturgy if I wish but which I don’t. But what is completely foreign to me and a bit unsettling, being a life-long LC—MS Lutheran, is what appears to be genuflecting going on in the chancel. This is something I hope will not continue (if genuflecting is what indeed is taking place) which in some strange way is reverencing the host as if the pastor, because he is a pastor, has some magical power and has instantly before our eyes magically changed the substance of the bread into the body of Christ. Really?”

Yes, President Wicher, genuflecting was really taking place! Pastors were kneeling! Many of the editors were present at the convention and saw it with our own eyes!  But what is the problem?  Kneeling is a true adiaphoron, but like all ceremonies or liturgical actions, it may teach something.  The pastors in the chancel did not kneel in some strange way reverencing the host as if the pastor has some magical power and magically changed the substance of the bread into the body of Christ, but because those pastors actually believe that under the bread is the true Body of Jesus Christ and under the wine is the very Blood of Christ according to Christ’s own clear Word.  It is this LORD, our maker, the one through whom all things were made who was born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, crucified under Pontius Pilate and raised on the third day who is really present, under the bread and wine for us Christians to eat and to drink.  Don’t you believe that?   We pray you do.  Have you ever knelt to receive the Sacrament of the Altar?  Did you at that time believe in some magic that the pastor did, or were you receiving the Body and Blood of your Lord and God in humility for the forgiveness of your sins and worshiping him in true faith?   Genuflecting is a true adiaphoron, believing that Christ is present in the Sacrament according to His Word is not. The fact that He is present might cause fellow Christians to kneel in reverence.  They are free to do so.  So are you.  Really.

Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. -  Philippians 2:9-11

Holy Father, Holy Son, Holy Spirit, three we name Thee;
Though in essence only one, Undivided God we claim Thee
And, adoring bend the knee, While we own the mystery.  LSB 940:5

- The Editors


Two side notes.  We commend to our readers the following; the first regarding the Adoration of Christ in the Sacrament, the second, Blessed Martin Luther on the genuflection during the recitation of Nicene Creed in the Divine Service as a confession of the Incarnation of the Son of God  -

1. "Now, here we are not saying that one should not worship our dear Lord Jesus Christ in this Sacrament, being present, of that one should not hold this Sacrament with all honor and reverence. On the contrary, since these divine, almighty, true words are believed, all of this follows of itself, and not only in external gestures but also both externally and, first and foremost, in the heart, spirit, and truth. On account of this, such adoration of Christ is not thereby cancelled, but much rather, confirmed. For where the Word is rightly seen, considered and believed, the adoration of the Sacrament will happen of itself. For whoever believes that Christ's body and blood are there (as there is plenty of evidence so to believe, and it is necessary so to believe), he cannot, to be sure, deny his reverence to the body and blood of Christ without sin. For I must confess that Christ is there when His body and blood are there. His words do not lie to me, and He is not separate from His body and blood." - George von Anhalt, The Treasury of Daily Prayer, February 3, pp. 1179-80

2. Although the Antichrist in Rome and the devil frightfully mutilated and perverted all that is divine in the church, God nevertheless miraculously preserved Holy Scripture – even though it was darkened and dimmed under the pope’s accursed rule – and passed it down to our day.  Thus God also preserved these words of the Gospel, which were read from the pulpit every Sunday, although without the proper understanding.  Also the words of the Decalog, the Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer, as well as Baptism and one kind in the Sacrament have survived under the devilish regime.  Although the Gospel was obscured and the proper understanding of it hidden, God still kept it for the salvation of His own.  These words too, “And the Word became flesh,” were held in reverence.  They were sung daily in every Mass in a slow tempo and were set to a special melody, different from that for the other words.  And when the congregation came to the words, “from the Virgin Mary and was made man,” every one genuflected and removed his hat.   It would still be proper and appropriate to kneel at the words “and was made man,” to sing them with long notes as formerly, to listen with happy hearts to the message the Divine Majesty abased Himself and became like us poor bags of worms, and to thank God for the ineffable mercy and compassion reflected in the incarnation of the Deity. But who can ever do justice to that theme?...The following tale is told about a course and brutal lout.  While the words, “And was made man” were being sung in church, he remained standing, neither genuflecting nor removing his hat. He showed no reverence, but just stood there like a clod.  All the others dropped to their knees when the Nicene Creed was prayed and chanted devoutly.  Then the devil stepped up to him and hit him so hard it made his head spin.  He cursed him gruesomely and said:  “May hell consume you, you boorish ass!  If God had become an angel like me and the congregation sang: ‘God was made an angel,’ I would bend not only my knees but my whole body to the ground!  Yes, I would crawl ten ells down into the ground.  And you vile human creature, you stand there like a stick or a stone.  You hear that God did not become an angel but a man like you, and you just stand there like a stick of wood!”  Whether this story is true or not, it is nevertheless in accordance with the faith (Rom. 12:6).  With this illustrative story the holy fathers wished to admonish the youth to revere the indescribably great miracle of the incarnation; they wanted us to open our eyes wide and ponder these words as well.
 - Luther’s Works Vol. 22, pp.102-103, 105-106.